Virginia

Stafford County Students Stranded at Bus Stops for Hours, Parents Say

The superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools says a shortage of bus drivers is partially to blame

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Some parents in Stafford County, Virginia, are furious after they say school buses never showed up to take their children to and from school.

Seventh grade student Brennan Carson gathered with about nine other children at his bus stop in the Hampton Oaks neighborhood Monday morning but the bus that was supposed to arrive at 8:21 never came, his mother said.

"By 9:30 yesterday morning, no bus had come. So, I finally decided, you know, I grabbed him and a couple of other kids and took them to school," Courtney Carson said.

Then, at the 2:55 p.m. dismissal, there was no bus to take Brennan home.

"At 3:30 they hadn’t even left the school. So, I texted him and he said there’s no buses. I said, 'Oh my gosh,'" Carson said.

Carson said she picked her son up at 5:30 p.m.

It was the same story Tuesday morning at the bus stop: no bus.

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Brennan wasn't the only student who waited for hours at the bus stop. Many other parents complained about the issue on social media.

Christina Ballard's middle schooler also waited for a bus that never came.

"It's just a huge safety concern. I mean some 6th graders are10 years old, and you’re expecting kids to stand outside and just wait and wait and wait," Ballard said.

Stafford County Superintendent Scott Kizner apologized to parents.

"I’m disappointed in ourselves and I'm disappointed for them," he said.

Kizner said it will take some time to to address the issues the school system is facing, the chief problem: the county is short 40 school bus drivers.

"It's going to take some time to work out. I don’t want to give the impression this is going to be resolved in the next couple of days," he said.

Kizner said bus runs are also taking longer due to COVID-19 protocols. Children have assigned seats.

The school system also made a mistake in asking parents to opt out of riding the bus rather than opting in, Kizner said. Few parents turned in forms, and bus routes are needed for about 26,000 children — but the county expected it would only need to bus about 16,000 to 17,000, Kizner said.

The transportation department is having bus drivers do more double runs and 12 new drivers will be behind the wheel soon, he said.

Parents, meanwhile, demanded better communication.

"There’s no communication to say your bus is not going to be there until 10 o’clock or bus is not going to be home until 5 o'clock," one parent said.

On Tuesday afternoon, a robocall was sent out to parents to warn them their children’s bus home might be late.

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